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“Copyright is fundamental to creative industries, those who believe it’s not relevant are mistaken”
I find that interesting on a few levels. And by “interesting” I mean “bullshit.”
Konrath is an author who escaped the midlist wilderness of traditional publishing to do extremely well for himself (to the tune of about $3,000 a day) by self-publishing on Amazon. As you may expect, he’s become an advocate for self-publishing and a strong critic of the traditional model and those who defend it. His quote above is in response to a tweet by the U.K’.s Publishers Association from the London Book Fair.
Conventions | Nearly 10,000 people flocked to the Lexington (Kentucky) Comic and Toy Convention over the weekend, far exceeding expectations. [Kentucky.com]
Piracy | This is about movies and music more than comics, but it’s an interesting perspective: Thorin Klosowski explains why he gave up on illegal downloads. The short answer: It’s now easier to stay legit. [Lifehacker]
Commentary | Julian Darius takes a hard look at last week’s removal of Persepolis from Chicago classrooms and what that says about our society’s attitude toward torture. [Sequart]
Awards | Dave Brown received the Cartoonist of the Year award at the Society of Editors’ UK Press Awards. [The Independent]
Publishing | DC’s 52-variant-cover gimmick with Justice League of America #1 seems to have paid off, as ICv2 estimates Diamond Comic Distributors sold more than 300,000 copies to comics shops last month. That adds up to more than $1 million in retail sales, a rare height last passed by in January by The Amazing Spider-Man #700. ICv2 also posts the Top 300 comics and graphic novels for February. [ICv2]
Kickstarter | Gary Tyrrell talks to Holly Rowland, who with husband Jeffrey has launched a business called Make That Thing to help comics creators fulfill their Kickstarter pledges. The Rowlands are also the team behind the webcomics merchandise retailer TopatoCo. [Fleen]
In a short interview conducted at the Tools of Change event, Cory Doctorow argues that piracy, like gravity, is a fact of life that just has to be dealt with:
Saying piracy is not acceptable is like saying gravity makes my back hurt. There is a difference between a problem and a fact…You can very firmly believe that it’s incredibly bad for people to pirate things, but there’s no future in which the internet makes it harder to copy. There’s no articulatable theory of reducing piracy on the internet that doesn’t come from someone trying to sell you something.
The difference between facts and problems is facts are things you try to accommodate, problems are things you try to solve.
(Emphasis added.) He’s talking about all piracy, not comics in particular, but his point is very relevant to the current comics scene: The technology that allows people to copy and share work is not going to go away, and therefore it must be dealt with.
Comics | A Columbus, Ohio, entertainment weekly lays out a case for the city — home of Jeff Smith, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo — becoming, like Portland, Oregon, a hub for comic books. “Comics in Columbus is a weird underground, sort of hip-hop thing,” indie publisher Victor Dandridge Jr. says. “We’re like hip-hop in the Bronx in ’79, just on the corner doing our thing.” [Columbus Alive]
Conventions | Bart Beaty files a final report on this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival, and his verdict is … meh. “There was a consensus all around that the show was flat. People would throw around adjectives like “fine,” “good,” and “okay.” It wasn’t a disaster (as were some of the shows disrupted by construction), but it also wasn’t that memorable either” [The Comics Reporter]
Creators | Artist J.K. Woodward (Fallen Angel, Star Trek: The Next Generation/Doctor Who) recounts how he and his wife lost everything but their cat and the clothes they were wearing during Hurricane Sandy — and how what happened afterward changed his perspective: ““When things are going right, you really don’t know what kind of world you’re living in. You tend to be cynical. But there has been such an outpouring of support not just here but from the comics community — we did a podcast interview, for example, and I mentioned how we had to go to the laundromat every day because of our clothing situation. As a result of that, two days later I went to my studio was packed full of care packages with toiletries and other necessities. It showed that what should have been a real tragedy turned into a blessing. It gave me a much more positive outlook.” [The Conway Daily Sun]
People will pay for content — but if they can’t get it legally, they will get it illegally. Holding content back ultimately hurts sales.
That’s the takeaway from Michael D. Smith’s presentation on piracy this week at the Digital Book World conference in New York. While he was talking mostly about e-book piracy, his insights should certainly transfer to the comics industry.
Smith, a professor of information technology and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University, launched his talk with some “myths,” including the notion that publishers “can’t compete with free.” In fact, they can; it’s just a matter of marketing. But they have to be willing to sell the book to begin with. This article by Jeremy Greenfield on the Digital Book World site summarizes one publisher’s experience that mirrors what is going on in comics:
Publishing | Bob Wayne, DC Comics’ senior vice president of sales, and John Cunningham, vice president of marketing, discuss May sales figures, which show the publisher edging closer to Marvel in market share and Batman topping Justice League. Wayne also explained why DC won’t change its practice of publishing collected editions first in hardcover, then as inexpensive paperbacks: “While certain titles do get a deluxe or an Absolute Edition at some point, we think our retailer would be leaving a lot of money on the table if we didn’t give consumers the chance to buy hardcovers first on select titles. The sales we are having in both channels on Batman and Justice League in the month of May indicate that we don’t have that many people waiting the trade, looking for that cheaper edition. A lot of people seem to want a nice durable hardcover and we plan to follow this model for the foreseeable future.” [ICv2]
Piracy | Manga scanlators (and proprietors of other bootleg comics sites, such as HTMLComics.com) have argued that reading manga on their sites is no different from checking it out of the library. Librarian and graphic novel expert Robin Brenner explains why that just isn’t so. [About.com]
Legal | Don MacPherson, who covers the courts for his daily newspaper, updates the case of Josue Rivera, aka comic artist Justiniano, who pleaded not guilty in May 2011 to charges of possessing more than 100 photographs and videos containing child pornography. Rivera was arrested in Connecticut following a July 2010 incident in which police say he mistakenly gave a funeral home director a thumb drive containing 33 files classified as child pornography instead of the one containing photos of a deceased relative. Police later seized Rivera’s computer and found 153 files of suspected child pornography. A judge has denied a motion to suppress the thumb drive, which Rivera’s attorney had argued was obtained by police through an illegal, warrantless search. However, the judge ruled the search valid, as the material on the drive was brought to the attention of the police by a third party, the funeral home. MacPherson’s summary of court documents provides more details on the case. [Eye on Comics]
Mark Waid has really put his money where his mouth is: After preaching the gospel of the “culture of sharing” for a couple of years now, he’s making his comic Insufferable available for anyone to download and share.
Although the comic is available for free from his Thrillbent website, he found that within 24 hours the first chapter had been copied and uploaded to torrent and file-sharing sites. “The only thing that startled me was that it took 24 hours,” he said, and sure enough, the next two chapters were uploaded even faster. And he’s happy about it:
ICv2 kicks off the week with an interesting bit of digital comics news: More than 50 million comics have been downloaded from the digital comics distributor comiXology since it launched in July 2009. This news comes in a bit of a void, as digital comics distributors, unlike Diamond Comic Distributors, don’t release their sales numbers. Perhaps ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp, who is on the comiXology board, has some insider knowledge, because the article adds that 5 million of the downloads occurred in December alone — in other words, 10 percent of the total downloads over the entire life of the business occurred in a single month. No word on January or February, though. Also, the article notes that “a significant percentage of the 5 million comics downloaded were free.” Which immediately (at least in my mind) raises the question, “What’s the percentage?” It must be pretty high, as ICv2 estimated the entire digital comics market in 2011 at $25 million; even if everybody bought their comics at comiXology, during one of its 99-cent sales, that would still mean only half the downloads were paid.
With the statistics out of the way, the article goes on to discuss the usual questions of whether digital sales are supplanting or supplementing print and how piracy figures into all of this. Ten points to Top Cow’s Filip Sablik for this observation:
Creators | Novelist and X-Club writer Simon Spurrier recounts how he gave up his seat on a panel at last weekend’s London Super ComicCon to creator Tammy Taylor, in the spirit of “Panel Parity”: “Paul’s idea is that you can’t expect true gender parity in comics unless you create the conditions to facilitate it. Even if one has to dabble in positive discrimination, even if one must expect outraged cries of ‘tokenism!,’ ‘political correctness gone mad!,’ ‘patronising cockcentric condescension!,’ it’s worth it. So Paul created a movement he called ‘Panel Parity’ in which he planned to exercise the only real power he has – like any of us in the weird world of industry conventions – to make a difference. Paul pledged that whenever he’s invited onto a panel which doesn’t feature at least 50% women, he’ll surrender his own seat to a female speaker. Even if that means tracking down someone less ‘well-suited’ to discussing the topic at hand than himself. Even if it means disappointing people in the crowd who travelled to the show specifically to see him talk. As long as Said SheGuest is able to contribute in some way to the conversation, Paul feels her presence on stage is more valuable than his own. Which is a brave and important and splendid thing to say.” [Simon Spurrier]
Publishing | David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, says that Marvel is putting “the biggest marketing investment that we’ve ever put into a series or an event” behind its upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. The campaign will include online, social media, radio and television promotion. “They’re actually treating every issue as an event, because there’s a different fight going on in every issue, and I’m told that they are pushing every single issue through all 12 issues,” Gabriel said. “The story itself has three acts, and each of those acts has a natural marketing hook to it, so they’re pushing those as well.” [ICv2]
Publishing | While DC’s New 52 has been good for comics sales overall, there is a dark side: Sales of pre-reboot collected editions are down. ICv2 also lists the Top 10 comics and graphic novel franchises in a number of different genres. [ICv2]
Legal | The Justice Department brought more charges of fraud and copyright infringement against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues on Friday, but also revealed that Megaupload isn’t all that mega: The file-sharing site had only 66.6 million users, not the 180 million previously claimed, and fewer than 6 million had ever actually uploaded a file. The indictment mentions one user who uploaded almost 17,000 items, including copyrighted movies, which were viewed 34 million times. [The Washington Post]
Just two weeks after Viz debuted Shonen Jump Alpha, its digital replacement for Shonen Jump, the publisher has forced a group of fan translators to stop posting chapters of a number of Viz series.
The scanlation group Mangastream posted the news on Saturday that Viz had forced it to stop releasing chapters of seven series, including the ultra-popular Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, which are included in Shonen Jump Alpha. They couldn’t resist a snort of derision:
They’ve succeeded in little more than invoking inconvenience to the community as their digital magazine missed the mark; it runs several issues behind and only features 3 of the above series. So long as their product continues to be slow, awkward and inferior to something a ragtag group of nobodies can churn out in a few hours – fans will continue to look to scanlation groups and aggregators for their weekly fix.
This is the first time that I can recall (someone will probably correct me on this if I’m wrong) that a publisher has gone after the scanlators themselves, rather than the sites that carry their work. Onemanga.com, once one of the top 1,000 sites on the whole internet, and most of the other “free manga” sites are aggregators who depend on a handful of speed scanlators to bring them the latest chapters of the most popular titles. While shutting down those sites has proved problematic, cutting off their source of material may be more effective than a cease-and-desist letter. On the other hand, it may not: one aggregator site lists 363 translators for Naruto alone.
One fan took their complaint right to the source, the Shonen Jump forum:
The fantasy-action-comedy comic Skullkickers was one of the surprise hits of the past year, and now the creators are going to post the back issues on Keenspot. The web version starts out with two prequels, short stories that writer Jim Zubkavich and artist Chris Stevens created for Image’s Popgun Anthology.
While it may seem odd to post a comic for free while it’s still available for sale, this move makes a lot of sense: I’m guessing single issues that came out more than a year ago are no longer readily available (although digital editions still are at comiXology), but as the trades have sold pretty well, the creators may figure the value of the new readers who will come to the comic through Keenspot — and ultimately buy the print or digital editions — will more than compensate for any sales lost from those people who might have paid but decided to read Skullkickers for free instead.
This is a calculation every creator should make, because it may lead them to choose, as Zubkavich & Co. have done, to pre-empt the pirates and make their work available online on their own terms.